Queen's University Belfast Plasma Physics

Lead Research Organisation: Queen's University of Belfast
Department Name: Sch of Mathematics and Physics

Abstract

This is a proposal to create a coherent, critical-mass research group of nine academics with strength in experimental, theoretical and computational plasma physics which will provide innovation, leadership and training. We would appoint two plasma theorists and one low temperature plasma experimentalist/modeler. The theorists are expected to be involved in the development of cutting edge kinetic modeling capabilities able to follow laser-interaction and plasma dynamics on experimentally relevant scales, hybrid codes (e.g. PIC-fluid) able to describe charged particle propagation through dense matter, computational and analytical models able to treat emerging issues in warm dense matter and high energy density physics and new analytical and computational tools to treat the ultrahigh intensity interaction regimes. The experimentalist will work across the interfaces of plasma physics, chemistry and surface science, combining sophisticated diagnostics with advanced computational modelling capabilities. A significant element of this bid is the proposal to coordinate a UK-wide, web and module-based teaching programme in Plasma Physics in partnership with other universities, laboratories and industry. Individual modules can be taken as stand-alone courses by PhD students and those in full time employment or aggregated to obtain an MSc.

Publications

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Description CPP is still one of the largest and most vibrant Plasma Physics research centres in a UK university with strong connections into major international groups and facilities. In particular there is full integration of theory and computer-based simulation throughout all our research programmes and much increased activity in non-thermal plasmas. There has been an appropriate turn over of staff which helps with the vitality. The impact of this particular income has now dissipated and I have retired.
This last comment is relevant to the other sections here.







A major theme in CPP is the use of the in-house 20 terawatt (2 x 1013 W) Taranis Laser and other international high power lasers to study a wide range of phenomena at the forefront of physics. Briefly these are:

Conceiving and testing novel methods of producing new short pulse, photon sources, eg lasers operating in the X-ray and XUV. Substantial progress has been made in using them to the further the burgeoning field of attoscience and ultra-fast science in general ie phenomena occurring within timescales ~10_18s.

Novel approaches to using lasers to drive ion acceleration have been developed using theory and advanced PIC codes. These innovative approaches are key to developing the ultra-compact, laser-driven accelerators which can complement the existing, costly large scale facilities. It would rapidly expand the access to charged particles for fundamental research, industry and Biomedical applications and therapies.

The study of plasmas of relevance to astrophysical scenarios has gained momentum at QUB from the synergy of modeling and advanced experimental activities, with particular focus on shock formation, particle acceleration and electro-magnetic instabilities.



Electrically produced, non-thermal plasmas play an important role in many technological applications eg the microelectronics industry and recently impacting on biomedicine. In CPP synergies of advanced optical measurements, expertise from laser plasmas and multi-scale numerical simulations are used to provide a unique quantitative understanding their plasma dynamics and chemical kinetics. The advanced optics expertise of the laser group is now being also deployed, eg to measure directly their electron properties through laser (Thomson) scattering from them.

CPP has become increasingly involved in the emerging area of biomedicine with studies of plasmas produced in saline solution, the observation of direct correlated energy transport mechanisms in plasma jets and laser-produced ion beams with biological interactions and DNA damage.
Exploitation Route Microelectronics: As mentioned above use is made of our research in the microelectronics industry. This can be seen from the funding from Intertrade Ireland and Impedans (an Irish plasma diagnostics company) to help develop concepts for active monitoring of industrial plasmas using ultra-fast imaging techniques. These and other techniques have proven to be extremely powerful and have led to support for studentships in CPP from Intel. The industry recognizes that this type of advanced metrology is crucial for the next-generation 3-dimensional plasma manufacturing technologies which will approach atom-scale precision.



Healthcare: In the field of medicine ultra-compact, laser-driven ion accelerators show potential for future use in cancer therapy and diagnosis. If laser acceleration could in the future match the requirements of the large size conventional accelerators in terms of energy and stability, it could become a competitor technology with potential benefits in terms of cost and installation constraints. In addition there have been world-wide interruptions in the production of medical isotopes in recent years. Intense proton sources such as are now available from high energy lasers may provide an alternative route of isotope production which could also be very compact and cost-effective.



There is also potential for the use of non-thermal plasmas in what is now being called plasma medicine. As discussed above we are very active in fundamental research in this area and have built proto-types of two relevant plasma sources, funded by a small (£5K) innovation grant from QUB. Several German companies now produce more sophisticated versions of other devices. We are actively seeking like-minded UK companies.



Energy: As discussed above much of our research has direct impact across the Thermonuclear Fusion energy sector and mainly relates to the use of lasers and/or laser-produced particle beams in the Inertial Confinement Fusion approach. Laser-driven particles may also have a role to play in diagnosing plasmas in the ITER-type approach, through magnetic confinement fusion. In both approaches they could be used for investigating the resilience of materials to be used as containment vessels.


This has not really changed significantly. Please see my comments re:


Education and Training: We are also making contributions to industry through our two innovative web-based teaching MSc programmes, one is academic and partially supported through the S&I award and trains the new research and development staff across all aspects of plasmas physics. The other is in Plasma and Vacuum Technology and is industry-facing and run jointly with Dublin City University. This already allows students in industry and others to have access to advanced technology-focused courses in a manner that can accommodate their working or personal circumstances. We have recently adapted the Plasma Physics MSC to also allow part-time study and to be more affordable for overseas students.



We now have a well-trialed teaching environment available as an exemplar and template for other scientific and technical areas which in itself could have commercial value.
Many of the activities in CPP allow us to contribute to several aspects of current EPSRC Physics Grand Challenge areas and, since most of the phenomena studied are non-equilibrium, particularly Emergence and Physics Far From Equilibrium.

The plasma physics research in CPP has links to energy research through both fusion confinement schemes. The behaviour of extremely hot and dense laser- produced plasmas is clearly linked to inertial fusion where lasers are used to create similar, but more extreme conditions, to drive nuclear fusion reactions. Non-thermal, cool plasma research can inform research on the edge plasmas and neutral beam heating aspects of magnetic fusion. Advances in optical and diagnostics techniques and theory and simulation are quickly exchanged. Through our MSc we are also involved in EU-wide, fusion-related educational initiatives such as FUSENET and PLAPA.



CPP pioneering studies of opacity, warm dense matter, collisionless shocks find uptake in astrophysics and planetary sciences where similar phenomena are important in understanding and observing phenomena in stars, planets and the solar wind.

The work on laser produced MeV ions is now part of a multidisciplinary EPSRC funded programme on Laser Induced Beams of Radiation and their Applications (LIBRA). This novel technology has wide ranging applications from cancer treatment and forensics to critical fault diagnosis and three dimensional chemical and structural analysis. For instance, laser-energised protons and ions could cut the cost and footprint of future cancer treatments by removing the need for large, expensive delivery systems.

Plasmas created in molecular gas mixtures, with their unique physical and chemical properties, are at the core of electronic chip manufacture, creating the microscopic architectures. This uses a very sophisticated and controllable synergy of physics and chemistry. The improved control of these processes to meet next generation requirements has been one thrust of our work, as discussed in the next section.



That technology has been applied in vacuum chambers at low gas pressures. CPP has recently played a major role in the creation of similar plasma environments but at atmospheric pressure or in liquids and with cold gas temperatures. This now allows other chemistries to be developed and for their use with soft materials, such as polymers and even biological material. We work with academics in engineering on correlating plasma and polymer surface conditions to optimise specific processes. CPP is also working in developing their use ability of plasmas to deliver controlled amounts of specified reactive molecules, charged particles and light in short time scales (from 10's nsec) and into and onto small structures (from microns). We use these characterized devices with researchers in Pharmacy, the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology, Bacteriology and Biochemistry at QUB to identify the effects of these species on biological material ranging from lipids to DNA.
Work with with Chemistry to exploit the application of nonthermal plasma in catalysis research has lead to a major project funded by Innovate UK "Promenade" which is lead by Johnson-Matthey,
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Chemicals,Education,Electronics,Energy,Healthcare,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology

URL http://www.qub.ac.uk/research-centres/CentreforPlasmaPhysics/
 
Description Many current and former members for the Centre for Plasma Physics have engaged with local industrial companies. Ongoing engagement with outreach programmes.
First Year Of Impact 2006
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Education,Healthcare,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology
 
Description EPSRC research grant EP/I031766/1
Amount £124,723 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/I031766/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2011 
End 03/2013
 
Description Facility access: Collisionless shock waves in rarefied, magnetized media
Amount £200,000 (GBP)
Funding ID 12110019 
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2012 
End 07/2012
 
Description Platform grant: Yotta - exploring routes to the ultimate intensity regime
Amount £1,426,747 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/I029206/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2011 
End 06/2015
 
Description Research Grant
Amount £45,294 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/J016810/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2011 
End 06/2012
 
Description Royal Society travel grant: Nonlinear Processes and Structures in Multi-component Plasmas
Amount £4,000 (GBP)
Funding ID 2008/R2 
Organisation The Royal Society 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2009 
End 06/2009
 
Description Royal Society travel grant: Nonlinear Processes and Structures in Multi-component Plasmas
Amount £4,000 (GBP)
Funding ID 2008/R2 
Organisation The Royal Society 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2009 
End 06/2009
 
Description Royal Society travel grant: Nonlinear Wave Dynamics and Modulational Interactions in Plasmas
Amount £4,000 (GBP)
Funding ID 2010/R2 
Organisation The Royal Society 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2010 
End 06/2011
 
Description Royal Society travel grant: Nonlinear Wave Dynamics and Modulational Interactions in Plasmas
Amount £4,000 (GBP)
Funding ID 2010/R2 
Organisation The Royal Society 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2010 
End 06/2011
 
Description Romanian Physics RAE Panel 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience Participants in your research or patient groups
Results and Impact Member of Research Assessment Exercise Panel , similar to UK REF, evaluting Romanian Physics Departments. . Awarding Body - Romanian Executive Agency for Higher Education Research Development and Innovation,, Name of Scheme - Romanian Research Assessment Exercise
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011